Late last month I was hanging out with some of my old gymnastics teammates from Stanford. At their apartment, there were a pair of parallettes, and my buddy Nick challenged me to an L-Seat competition. Neither of us had done one in a while and we both gave it our best shot. I think he beat me by like 10 seconds — and I wasn’t thrilled about it.
Much more than a balance exercise, the L-Seat uses chest, triceps, quads and abs to hold. I decided to make this month’s challenge an L-Seat competition and see if I can ramp myself up so next time we face off, I’ll smoke him.
I’ve never been a particularly fast runner and even after training for and completing a marathon, I’m still pretty slow. So my March Fitness Challenge is a single mile.
A mile is 1609 meters, about 30 feet more than 4 laps around a standard track, which is 400m on the inside lane. I did my test run on March 1st and surprised myself by running it in 6m 50s. My friend Jason Evanish, who ran cross country in high school and ran something like a 4:45 mile, gave me me some tips on training for a fast mile. Maybe not revolutionary stuff, but as someone used to training shorter distances, it was helpful:
Intervals workouts: run 1 laps at the track at your goal pace (mine is 6min, so slightly under 1:30 for the single lap). Repeat 4-8 times, with a few minutes of rest in between. Last one should really hurt. Once or twice a week.
Longer runs: 4-5 mile runs, don’t worry as much about time, just get some endurance in
Fartleks: Swedish for “speed play”, this is something inbetween intervals and long runs, a mix of easy running, with bursts of faster pace interspersed. I’ve read a lot about these and need to actually try doing them
Swinging arms: it’s important to swing your arms straight forward and not cross your arms across your body, which wastes energy. Also, swing your arms back hard enough that your hands meet your hips. This opens up your chest so you can breathe better.
I’ve been trying to follow his advice and also modifying my workout routine a bit: doing heavy lifting only one time a week, down from two (which helped for improving handstand pushups) and doing moderate biking on the days I don’t run or do track workouts.
The month is already over half over so we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping to crack a 6 minute mile. Let me know if you have any other tips or advice for me in the comments.
Edit – Final Mile Time
So I finished my mile challenge with about a 20 second drop, from 6:50 to 6:30. I was hoping to drop it further, to the low 6 minutes and perhaps even break into 5, but it was not going to happen.
The day was a little cool and I wasn’t feeling my best, but you just gotta make the most of testing day. Was definitely wiped at the end. My friend Jason tells me a 20 second drop is pretty good for a month, probably because when you’re training a ton like he was, you didn’t see drops that big, that quick.
This year, I am still running a couple times a week, but the SF cold has kept me from doing a lot of long runs on the weekends, especially without a big race to train for. I do plan to do more racing, but I’m not sure when. So I’ve decided to mix things up this year.
Here’s how my Monthly Fitness Challenges will work:
At the start of each month, I’ll post a blog post of me doing a particular fitness challenge
If you want to join in, you can post your own time/score in the comments
During the month, I will train for the exercise and share what workouts I do for it
At the end of the month, I’ll post again with my final results
If you’re following along, you can share your results too!
This coincides nicely with my goal to try new stuff on the blog — as I’ll be trying to shoot videos for every one of my challenges. I’m sure I’ll make lots of mistakes along the way, but I’ll try to fix them as they come up. Let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions!
Note: I know it’s already halfway through the month, so I apologize for taking a while to get this post up. Future posts should come up at the beginning of the month.
Jason Shen is a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the Smithsonian. He cofounded Ridejoy, a Y Combinator backed ride-sharing startup and his work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Outside Magazine, Lifehacker and more.
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